Can the makers manage to escape the straitjacket of a Netflix true crime series?
The murder of Derek and Nancy Haysom was world news in the 1980s. The couple was found dead in their own home, their bodies riddled with stab wounds. Both had been nearly decapitated, their necks had been cut so deeply. People immediately thought of a satanic ritual, as the corpses were lined with blood and the slaughter seemed to be the work of a very vengeful person, but daughter Elisabeth soon came into the picture as a suspect.
The legal process that followed the murders is the starting point of the documentary Till Murder Do Us Part: Soering vs. Haysom. The makers take the time to explain the relationship between Elisabeth Haysom and her younger boyfriend Jens Söring. Both very intelligent, young people from wealthy circles. She is rebellious, beautiful and challenging. He is arrogant, nerdy and absolutely impossible to get along with. Yet they have an intense relationship.
The dozens of letters they write to each other clearly reveal Haysom’s manipulative traits and Söring’s blind love. She describes the disgust she feels for her parents, he replies that he would kill them for her. Later it becomes clear that they have carried out their plans. In their arrogance they think they cannot be caught, but things turn out differently. They flee to Europe, where they try to keep their heads above water with fraudulent practices. But that also gets them into trouble.
Söring desperately tries to stay in Europe. If he is extradited, he will probably end up in the electric chair. Meanwhile, Haysom tries with all his might to convince the jury that she was not present at the double murder. Söring is the murderer, she merely manipulated him into committing his act. But then Söring is still extradited. And while he has made a full confession in Europe, he surprises friend and foe in the United States: he pleads not guilty.
The first two episodes of Till Murder Do Us Part: Soering vs Haysom are boring. These follow very neatly the now well-known pattern of the Netflix true crime documentary, including a creatively intended timeline and reenacted scenes. Detectives involved at the time are interviewed in detail, as are a number of journalists and some family members. Photos of the crime scene are also shown, even those of the mutilated corpses. This is not necessary for the image of the atrocities. The liters of dried blood that all other photos show provide a more than clear picture of the horrifying fear of death that the victims must have experienced.
These two episodes do have a beautiful cliffhanger. At the end of the first, Jens Söring joins in personally and episode two ends with a young Söring in court, where he utters the legendary words “not guilty”. And only then will you be on the edge of your seat. Because how can he say something like that when he has stated the exact opposite on the other side of the ocean? And how does he want to reconcile that with Haysom’s very plausible testimony? And – even more interesting – how did he get away with it? Because Söring now lives as a free man in Germany.
The makers manage to escape the Netflix pattern to some extent. From episode three onwards, it no longer matters that you have seen such true crime series dozens of times. This case is very exciting and the construction and assembly is carried out in such a way that you want to keep watching. If you manage to get through the first two episodes, you will be left amazed after the last episode.
Is this the merit of the makers? Partially. It’s clear that they really tried to color outside the Netlix lines and it works quite well. After all, they were able to speak to one of the perpetrators and use very detailed photos. But it is mainly the wriggling of the two suspects that keeps the attention. This case is a real page turner that will leave you with many questions afterwards. Because it is still not clear who actually cut the souls out of the victims.
Till Murder Do Us Part: Soering vs. Haysom can be seen on Netflix.